Progress on Purpose: Stress Not Allowed

by Rick

Today we continue our series, “Progress On Purpose.”  I told you that God wants us to walk in “NEW LEVELS IN 2021!”  But if we are going to do so, we must be intentional about our progress.  With that in mind, as we lay the foundation for the year, I told you that I would discuss “Leveling Up” in five areas: 

1.  Spiritually

2.  Financially

3.  Physically 

4.  Internally

5.  Externally

We have covered the first three thus far.  Today we are looking at the fourth: Leveling up internally.  In this section, I will cover the following:

1.  Being anxious for nothing

2.  Receiving unshakable peace

3.  Joy and peace in believing

4.  Relaxing your mind and getting physical/psychological rest

5.  The highest form of faith is rest

Today’s message deals with the first two.  It is about NOT stressing, and it will also deal with the peace of God.  The title is, “Stress not allowed!

Setting the stage:

I will deal with John 14 today, and I will highlight two verses from this passage.

(John 14:1 AMPC)

Do not let your hearts be troubled (distressed, agitated). You believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely on God; believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely also on Me.

(John 14:27 AMPC)

Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]

I will give you some context for John 14.  In chapter 13, Jesus is fully aware that His death is extremely close.  With that in mind, He starts to prepare the disciples for His departure.  Jesus said, “My children, I will be with you for a little while longer.  Then you will look for me, but you won’t find me.  I tell you just as I told the people, you cannot go where I am going.”  It is easy to see how this could disturb the disciples and cause them stress.  These men walked away from their careers and businesses to follow Jesus.  They had been following Him for over three years.  For three years, all they had known was Jesus, His teachings, His ministry, and His actions.  His life was their lives; their lives were His life.  So it’s easy to see how Jesus’ seemingly sudden departure could cause stress.

Simon Peter, the one disciple who was never shy and never short on words, asked, “Lord, where are you going?”  Jesus had tried to explain this before, but the possibility of Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection was hard to fathom.  Instead of attempting to explain the process, Jesus simply answered, “You can’t go with me now, but later on you will.”  Peter was not the type of guy who would accept an answer like that easily.  Peter questioned back: “Lord, why can’t I go with you now?  I would die for you!”  The thought of being disconnected from Jesus was obviously causing Peter distressing anxiety.  Peter did not want to hear about the possibility of some future reunion; Peter wanted to continue the fellowship he was having with Jesus and I believe it is safe to say that the other disciples felt the same way.  I don’t fault them for getting upset, for allowing their hearts to be filled with fear, fret, and doubt.  This was a BIG DEAL for them, and if they sat around thinking about it, they would surely ‘stress-out.’

Jesus perceived what Peter was feeling and I am sure He sensed the same thing in the hearts of the other disciples.  So was His response?  What would the King of glory say in a situation like this?  What answer could Jesus provide to the stress they were experiencing?  Jesus simply said, “Do not allow your hearts to be troubled.  Believe and trust in God, and believe and trust in Me.” (John 14:1).  That’s it!  No laying on of hands, no miraculous power-of-God demonstration, no voice from Heaven, nothing like that.  Jesus knew that they had ALLOWED their hearts to be troubled, and He simply told them NOT to do it and to simply trust God and Him.  The Greek word used for “troubled” in this verse is a word that means: to cause one inward commotion; to take away calmness of mind; to disquiet; to make restless; to render anxious or distressed; to perplex the mind of one by suggesting doubts.  

In verse 27, Jesus told the disciples that He was giving them peace, not the kind of peace they knew about, from the world.  But a peace that comes from God.  With this type of peace in place, they would have the ability to REJECT fear, doubt, unbelief, worry, and stress.  Guess what?  We have this same peace today.

So what does this mean for you today?  A few things.

1.  God will allow whatever you allow.

— Just like you can ALLOW your heart to be troubled, you have the power to refuse/reject the thoughts that lead to stress.

— Faith is a choice, just like fear is a choice.

— You cannot trust and worry at the same time, you have the power to choose.  You get to CHOOSE which one YOU will do.

— God will allow whatever you allow; He will not override YOUR choice!

2.  The Holy Spirit gives you access to supernatural peace.

Jesus knew He had to leave His disciples.  But what He was offering was actually better.  While He was alive in the earth, He was external to them, but He was offering THE SAME type of fellowship, relationship, and guidance, but ON THE INSIDE instead of the OUTSIDE.  In John 14:16,17, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever.  The Helper is the Spirit of truth.  The people of the world cannot accept him, because they don’t see him or know him. But you know him. He lives with you, and he will be in you.”  

This conversation from John 14 goes on for a while.  Two chapters later, Jesus said, “Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief.  But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:6,7).  Once again, they did not need to be filled with grief; that was their choice.

Here are some things we can glean from this:

— Jesus provided the disciples with leadership, guidance, comfort, protection, and a sense of peace, while He was with them.  But when Jesus was about to leave, He told the disciples that He was not going to leave them comfortless.  The Father was going to provide “another” comforter.  The word another in this text means another of the same exact kind.  Jesus was leaving, but the Holy Spirit was coming.

— While Jesus was with the disciples, He provided all He provided externally.  However, once the Holy Spirit came, He would provide everything Jesus provided, but INTERNALLY!

—  Even before the Holy Spirit came, Jesus made it clear that the grief and anxiety they were feeling was self-inflicted because they had the power to reject it.  If they had the power to reject stress BEFORE being filled with the Holy Spirit, how much more do we have that power now?

—  God has given you the power to rule over your emotions, but YOU must do so.  The choice is yours!  If you allow your heart to be troubled, full of anxiety and despair, and stressed-out, God won’t do anything about it because He has made you a free moral-agent.  You have given you the power to choose.  If you choose stress over peace, God will allow your choice, and you will live beneath His best.

—  If you allow your emotions to rule you, you will live an unstable and possibly unfruitful life.

—  You cannot grow without changing, and you will not receive what God is saying today (about NEW LEVELS) if you keep holding on to yesterday.  Change was coming for the disciples.  The change was causing them stress.  Jesus’ answer was not prayer; it was not the laying of hands.  It was not a miracle.  It was simply a statement, “DO NOT ALLOW YOUR HEART TO BE TROUBLED!”  If you allow it, God will allow it.  If you permit it, God will stand by as you are crippled by stress, but it won’t be His fault.

— The disciples had to get ready for their future.  Once you accept the fact that your life is constantly changing, you can overcome the stress that comes from the change, and you are free to be excited about your future!

3.  God’s peace is amazing.

In John 14:27, Jesus talked about peace that does not come from this world.  The world defines peace as freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, or anxiety, a state of tranquility or serenity.  But as a believer, we can have peace even amid these things.  We can have complete peace in the midst of annoyances; we can be settled in the peace of God even with distractions all around us.  Why?  Because for us, peace is not about the absence of anything but rather about the presence of God.

Instead of taking away the distressing anxiety, instead of laying hands on them and commanding the stress to leave, Jesus took another route and opted to give them His peace.  This is significant because what most people want is for God to take away all the things that are causing them stress, and Jesus shows us here that God sometimes gives us what we need to deal with and conquer situations instead of being delivered from them.

— God is not always going to deliver you FROM challenges, but He will give you what you need to conquer them—delivering you IN it, rather than FROM it.  

— Remember, you cannot be an overcomer if you never have anything to come over!

— The peace of God is not about the absence of conflict but rather about the presence of God.

— During the last year or so, you can make the argument that things have been a little crazy (with COVID-19, racial unrest, a global economic downturn), but as a believer, you can have peace in the middle of chaos.  Because for you, nothing needs to be absent; God just needs to be present.  

*** In closing, life is not always easy.  Bad things happen to good people.  There will always be something around that can cause you stress.  But you must ALLOW it to stress you out.  If you do, God will allow what you have allowed, and if you permit it long enough, you run the risk of derailing yourself from your destiny.  Live with this mentality: “NO NEGATIVE STRESS ALLOWED!”  End of story!

Declaration of Faith:

Father, I thank You for this teaching, and I thank You for Your peace!  Your peace comes as a result of Your presence.  I have accepted Jesus as my Lord.  Your Spirit lives in me every second of every day.  Your presence in me gives me what I need to face whatever challenges arise in my life.  I will not allow external challenges to disturb my internal peace.  When situations arise that I have to come over, I declare, by faith, that I overcome them because I am an overcomer.  That’s who I am!  I am a believer and not a doubter.  I walk by faith and not by fear.  I am the victor and not the victim.  You are IN me, ON me, WITH me, and FOR me; who can be against me?  Not only do I win the external fight, but I win the internal one as well.  Negative stress has no power over me!  I LEVEL UP my life in 2021!  GREATER IS COMING FOR ME!  I declare this by faith, in Jesus’s name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word.  Apply it and prosper!

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